Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Krayt Dragon Con Experience

by: Kcjohnson

A long time ago… May of 2012 (to be exact) and I was wandering around Motor City Comic Con in Detroit.  I was amazed at the crowds and ambiance of the whole convention experience.  My friend said to me, “This is nothing compared to Dragon Con.” 

I asked, “What was Dragon Con? 

Sand people drive down I-75
single-file, to hide
their numbers
Flash forward to May 2013: I’m now a member of the Rebel Legion, and while perusing the Great Lakes Base forum when I came across a post by a fellow GLB member -- looking for a ride to Dragon Con. The Star Wars gods were speaking to me and presented my opportunity.  I replied as fast as I could, offering to drive down and share the driving costs; and the deal was struck. Ironically, this guy has a great Chewbacca costume -- who else can say they drove to Dragon Con with Chewbacca as their co-pilot?

We left in the early morning hours on Thursday and met up with a few other friends from Great Lakes Base, as well as some local Great Lakes Garrison guys.  One “hyperspace” jump down I-75 later, we arrived in Atlanta around noon. By then the crowds were already gathering.  I was speechless, but that pales in comparison to what was to come.
Star Wars costuming panel
Friday marked the first day of the Con, and I agreed to help with the Star Wars costume panel that morning.  I got dressed as my Tusken Raider, in the parking lot – since the only hotels left available were outside of town.  Take my advice: plan early if you intend on going to this con!  As we walked over to the hotel where the panel was being hosted, we kept being stopped for pictures along the way.  Eventually, we arrived at the designated conference room and had a few people asking great questions about costuming and getting involved in the Rebel Legion and 501st.  After the panel was over, I went wandering; all the more amazed at the sights and sounds I was experiencing.

Suddenly, I came across a sign that read: “Give Blood, get a Free T-Shirt!” Free is always good, and seeing I never gave blood before, the Star Wars gods were again directing me.  Donating blood to Life South felt like a good thing to do, so I gladly volunteered.  One of the blood drive staff members took my information, interviewed me, and then hooked me up.  They had three huge rooms, filled with volunteers donating blood, and there was no shortage of people donating throughout the weekend.  When I asked my wife to shoot a picture, she told me to put my mask on… I did and she shot the picture.  The nurse drawing my blood quickly grabbed her camera and shot a picture as well.

I felt like a celebrity!

Saturday came and I wanted to do the parade.  I decided to go as a Jedi, since The Knights of the Jedi Order detachment wanted to do a group picture – and because my Tusken was a little too warm for marching in Georgia’s idea of summer. The Rebel Legion and 501st were last in line -- save the best for last right?   The parade was only about a mile but it seemed like 20 miles with that Georgia heat!  I was not prepared to see all the people lined up along the parade route.  It was like a 4th of July parade!  Once we came into view, the cheers rose up for the Rebel Legion and 501st.  Kids were jumping up and down, adults were clapping and cheering, we were the hit of the parade.  I really didn’t want it to end, even though I was hot, sweaty and thirsty.

Return of the (Michigan) Jedi
Saturday night saw us at the joint Rebel Legion/501st Mixer.  The after-hours party was well attended and everyone seemed to have a fun time.  It was great to network with the fellow members from around the country.  Even ran into Yaya Han (from “Heroes of Cosplay”) while waiting for the elevator; my first celebrity at Dragon Con sighting.

Sunday was a lazy day and was spent walking around seeing what we missed the past days; we were leaving first thing Monday morning.  I never went to any of the tracks and really never noticed that I missed them.  I had a schedule planned to hit some of the Star Wars and paranormal tracks, but alas -- I was distracted by the shiny costumes and energetic atmosphere.  The amount of time and sweat that went into these costumes is mind-boggling.  The love of the craft truly showed at Dragon Con.

This was my first Dragon Con, but not my last.  I’m already making plans to go next year (and hopefully hit some of the tracks).  My friend was right: Dragon Con was magical!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Endor wasn't built in a day

There are some projects that are so ambitious; they require whole teams of people working on them going from the drawing board to the convention floor.  One example of this is the “Endor Bunker” project members of Great Lakes Base and Ohio Garrison are currently working on for next month’s Cincinnati Comic Expo.  I spoke with JorAnthon recently to get a status update on the building the forest moon of Endor.

AWRI: What inspired you guys to take on such an ambitious project as an Endor Bunker with Speeder Bike?

JA: We took the project on as a favor to the organizer of the Expo. He asked us if we could build Star Wars-themed display for the event.  At first we came up with the AT-ST build.  After a long brainstorming session, we decided that there wasn't enough time to complete it but will be on the list for next Expo.  Staying with the Endor theme, we came up with the idea to build the speeder bike and bunker.  Well the bike has taken a little longer so the bunker will be build between Oct. and Jan. then the AT-ST; all three will be at the Expo next year!

AWRI: Wait… you guys are building an AT-ST? How tall is this thing going to be, and will a rope swing (with Wookiee and Ewoks) be provided? ;)

JA: Yeah, we have plans to build a AT-ST for next year’s Expo. We just didn't have enough time this year. It's going to be 28ft. tall and no, no swing -- insurance reasons!  However thinking about ordering a 1:1 scale Ewok and having him stick out of the top.

AWRI: Will this “Endor Bunker” display be of the scale many of us have seen at events from the Belgian Garrison?

JA: Our scale displays will be equal to the Belgian Garrison.  Fans will be able to sit on the speeder bike and take photos with the Redwood Forest backdrop we are having printed.  Then next year we will have the bunker and AT-ST.

photo courtesy BlasterPro
AWRI: Describe the process of constructing medium/large scale props and set pieces.  It's one thing to build a Kashyyyk clonetrooper . How do you build something of this scale -- essentially from scratch?

JA: Blaster Pro (aka Chuck) is the Master Mind behind the building process. He is an auto body tech, so he knows a lot about using fiberglass, body filler adhesives, paints and such.  It basically went from a foam body to a fiberglass one, with it being reinforced with wood, steel frame and steel supports.

AWRI: So, the first components of the “Endor Bunker” are scheduled to make their debut at Cincinnati Comic Expo?  How far along are we in the construction process?

JA: Yes the bike will be at the Cincinnati Comic Expo Sept.13th-15th.  I just got the dates for next year’s event; which will debut the bunker and AT-ST.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oh, FanExpo!

by: Moff D

If it’s late August, it must be time for Canada’s FanExpo.  Once again, we made the trek up to Toronto to troop with our Canadian friends, and with over 100 000 people in attendance this year, there were plenty of opportunities to show off the costumes.  The Star Wars costumers were combined into one giant Canadian Base, Canadian Garrison and R2 Builders booth with plenty on display for the public.  Even the Emperor himself, Ian McDiarmid, stopped by to sit in the replica of his throne.  There were daily raffles giving away plenty of Star Wars merch, and the ever-popular NERF-tastic “Shoot-A-Trooper” firing range where you could plant one on a trooper.  All money raised went to Make-A-Wish and the total isn’t in yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the total is north of $10000.

For the costumers, the weekend culminated on Saturday evening with the Grand March that led into the annual group photo.  Judging by the crowd reaction, it’s one of the marquee events for FanExpo -- plenty of opportunity to be blinded by camera flashes!

Rebel Legion and 501st take note: next year is the FanExpo’s 20th anniversary and the Canadian Garrison’s 10th anniversary.  The word is already being spread that members from all across the land are wanted to make it the biggest and best turnout yet.  So if you aren’t doing anything on Labor Day weekend, 2014 (forget Dragon Con) and make your way up to FanExpo!!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Indiana: Tarfful of Memories

by: Marcus

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of representing Great Lakes Base alongside the Bloodfin Garrison, Northern Darkness Garrison, as well as Corellian Base and Mos Espa Base at the Indiana State Musuem for the final weekend of Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination.  I trooped as Tarfful, along with a couple X-Wings Pilots, TK's and TIE Pilots, and we had a great time greeting the crowd as they entered the exhibit.  There were a couple hundred people attending the exhibit and enjoying the Millennium Falcon ride.  The scale replica of the Falcon’s cockpit serves as a theater for a short film about the universe; narrated by Anthony Daniels.

During the WSMI exhibit’s tour stop in Indiana, I've had the pleasure of trooping during a special event for museum donors (as Vader) and trooping the midnight opening. (as Tarfful)  I also got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the Indianapolis 500 Parade, riding in a 67 Corvette Stingray.

The Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit is a treasure wherever it goes and should be seen by all Star Wars fans.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

by: KrisAntilles

Last month members of the Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison spent a Wednesday evening visiting children for Star Wars night at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is a regional referral center dedicated to improving the health and lives of infants, children, and adolescents.  All of the care provided is by pediatric nurses, therapists and clinicians; and there are more than 200 pediatric physicians in 50 pediatric specialties and programs.  You can learn more at:  

Rebels and Imperials on a "mercy mission"
Upon arriving at the hospital, we autographed Star Wars posters for the children with our character's names or designations, then geared up for the visit.  Our cast of characters included Darth Vader and Old Ben Kenobi, along with a Stormtrooper and Jedi Knight.  With two members of the hospital staff and a cart full of goodies; including bookmarks, cards, “Imperial Credits”, and other things to go along with the autographed posters, we set out on our journey.

The hospital had scheduled a certain amount of time for us to visit each floor.  We started out in the lobby area of each floor, spending time with the children and their families who came out to visit, posing for pictures, and passing out swag.  After the lobby, we then visited the rooms of those children who were unable to come out to the lobby, before heading up to the next floor. 

Most of the children were very excited to see us, and we usually managed to win over the timid ones too.  Getting to hold a lightsaber, blaster, getting a high-five from a Stormtrooper or holding a Jedi’s hand to go meet Darth Vader was usually all it took.  One little girl showed us how she’d learned to bunny hop, so we all did some bunny hops with her.  I believe I spied a game of peek-a-boo with Vader too.  One boy was wearing a “Blast Cancer” stormtrooper t-shirt and had his picture taken with our Stormtrooper posing just like the trooper on his shirt.  I spent some time with one boy who wanted to show me who all of his favorite characters on his poster were, he then asked me to show him who my favorites were.  One young man was very impressed with Old Ben’s costume, “Wow, he even got the beard color right!”  During room visits we were shown a few paintings and craft projects being worked on, and one young man was busy with his Star Wars LEGOs and was happy to show us the little starship he’d recently designed and built.  Although we weren’t able to go inside one room, we did spend some time sharing high-fives and fist bumps with the little boy through the glass window of his room.  Staff members from the hospital also joined us for some photo ops.

That was my first time trooping a children’s hospital, and though at times it was a little hard on the heart, we made the children smile and hopefully helped make their day a little brighter, and that’s what counts!  Star Wars night at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is a bi-monthly event – and we’re looking forward to returning for another visit!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bish Bash

Over the years, you probably have heard me talk about The Sam Bish Foundation; a non-profit group organized by the parents who lost their son to bone cancer and is dedicated to helping families of children suffering from various forms pediatric cancer.  We have trooped numerous times when it comes to the Sam Bish Foundation: from our first visit with Sam in the hospital, the “Revenge of the Sith” movie night (where Sam was made an honorary member of The Rebel Legion -- complete with his own lightsaber), sending an “honor guard” to Sam’s funeral, even the Akron Aeros baseball game with customized jerseys dedicated to Sam’s memory. For the members of Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan, the Sam Bish Foundation has held a special place in our hearts – broken as they may be at times – where the Bish family is concerned.

This year’s “Bish Bash” fundraiser, which helps support all the outreach and support the foundation provides to families at local children’s hospitals, was held at Westerville Christian Church. 

When it comes to the Bish family and the Sam Bish Foundation, our guys tend to take things to a whole NEW level!  Leading up to the event, “Grumpy” -- and newly elected squad leader of GLB’s Clones of the Republic detachment -- both designed a Star Wars-themed “Pediatric Cancer Stinks” patch (the slogan of the Sam Bish Foundation), and he also personalized the chest plate of his armor with the Sam Bish Foundation in aurebesh; the alphabet of the Star Wars universe.  This isn’t the first time Grumpy has dedicated part of his clone armor to Sam’s memory, Sam’s initials can also be found on Grumpy’s pauldron (also in aurebesh).

Meanwhile, the rest of us were taking turns interacting with the kids; many of whom are cancer patients themselves. Thanks to the efforts of the heroic Courtney Hodges -- who may be suiting up for her first “mission” with Great Lakes Base in the near future -- we even recorded a message for kids who could not leave the hospital to attend the “Bish Bash”.  Outside, there were not one but THREE different food trucks selling their signature meals to help raise money.  As BrainKenobi and I waited in line, we joked that food trucks like these are what Luke Skywalker and his friends were in a hurry to get to Toshe Station for… “you can waste time with your friends when your chores are done.”

Overall, this year’s “Bish Bash” was a huge success!  The Sam Bish Foundation as well as the Bish family hold a special place in our hearts, but more importantly they have managed to turn their own personal tragedy into a “rebellion” against pediatric cancer -- and Great Lakes Base will always have their back.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shadow Squadron, standing by: Jedi Yar-Nala

Shadow Squadron, standing by: Jedi Yar-Nala
Shadow 76/ “Ryder”

Jedi Yar-Nala
One of the many great things about being a member of Shadow Squadron -- and The Rebel Legion in general -- is the way members can personalize their Rebel Pilot costumes to reflect their personality; and in some cases pride in their faith and/or family heritage.  One member of Shadow Squadron fits that description: Jedi Yar-Nala.

AWRI: What inspired you to do a Rebel pilot costume?

I always loved the costume from the first time I saw it on-screen as a kid.  One of my favorite toys growing up was my Kenner X-Wing Fighter with Luke in X-Wing fighter gear.  Man, did that fighter go through some epic battles.

AWRI: Do you have a custom helmet? If so what's the inspiration behind it.

(My helmet) has a large number of influences, the first being the color scheme.  It is my homage to my cultural heritage of being an American Filipino.  The colors are that of the Philippines Flag, while also including the sun and the stars found on the flag.  In addition, the sides of the helmet have my JYN logo -- which stands for Jedi Yar-Nala.  I sort of thought this might act as a SW family crest.  Down the spine of the helmet is my number Shadow 76 which is done in the Star Wars Metal Rebel font, and the on the back are two sets of text: one for the word “Ryder” -- which is my Shadow Squadron Call sign; and the other is Psalm 91.  Also on the front of the sign is the Jedi Knight logo. 

AWRI: Who is your favorite pilot in the books or movies? Why?

Probably Luke Skywalker, cuz hey... he took down the Death Star. 

AWRI: What's your favorite Rebel starfighter? Why?

Shadow 76, standing by!

My favorite would have to be the X-Wing fighter. Such a unique design and it just looks MEAN... and FAST! (a close second would be the Y-Wing fighter)